Unless you have done estate planning before, you probably have questions about what exactly estate planning entails and why you need an attorney to guide you through the process. Whether you’re getting ready to call a lawyer today or you’re just researching this topic for the first time, here’s what you need to know.
What Does an Estate Planning Lawyer Do?
Estate planning attorneys are highly trained, licensed legal professionals with specialized knowledge in how personal property is inventoried, valued, dispersed, and taxed after a person’s death. Many people mistakenly believe that estate plans and estate planning lawyers are only for wealthy individuals, but this is far from the truth. If you own any assets at all, you have a say in how that property will be handled after your passing. Do you have a charity you’d like to leave money to? Do you have something particular that you wish a family member to inherit? Are you hoping to spare your family members the time and expense of probate? An estate lawyer can help with all of these things and more.
Here are some examples of things an estate planning lawyer can help you with:
Designation of beneficiaries
Creation of a will
Establishment of a durable power of attorney
Establishment of a medical durable power of attorney
Setting up trusts
Finding ways to avoid probate or estate tax wherever possible
When to Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer
Thinking about estate planning is one of those things that a lot of people put off. They think that because they are young and healthy, there’s no need to think so far ahead; in fact, they may consider it grim to do so. The unfortunate reality is that life is unpredictable, and unexpected illnesses and accidents happen all the time. It’s extremely important to be prepared for any contingencies and make sure you have a plan in place to ensure your wishes are honored and your loved ones are provided for.
If you’re over the age of 18, it’s never too early to start considering estate planning services.
Besides standard planning, hiring an estate planning lawyer would be necessary and beneficial in the following types of situations:
You have a blended family and wish to pass on assets to a half-sibling, stepchild, or stepparent
You have a family member with special needs and need a solid plan to ensure their continued care after your passing
You need asset protection from lawsuits or creditors and wish to explore an irrevocable trust as a potential option
You are worried about estate tax or wish to take steps to protect your assets from being used as repayment for Medicaid / long-term care
You have foreign or out-of-state assets that may be subject to differing tax / legal requirements
You own or co-own a business and need assistance with succession planning
You wish to leave money, real estate, stocks, or other valuable assets to a 501(c)(3) organization via a charitable trust
How to Find an Estate Planning Attorney
There’s no shortage of estate planning lawyers out there to choose from, so finding the right one may seem like an intimidating task. With so much at stake, it’s important to do your research and make sure that whoever you choose is qualified, experienced, and reputable.
Here are some tips to aid your search:
Compile a list of any potential candidates. Look up “estate planning lawyer near me” online to see a list of attorneys in your area. Referrals from friends and family are another great resource.
Does the attorney specialize in estate planning? Many lawyers will offer this service, but it may not be their area of expertise. You may wish to consider hiring a firm that solely or strongly focuses on estate legal services rather than a multi-practice firm in which estate planning is only a small and infrequent offering.
Does the attorney have a good reputation among other lawyers and past clients? Perform an internet search of the prospective law firm and/or individual lawyer to see what people are saying about them. If they have earned the respect of peers and former clients alike, you can feel confident in requesting a consultation with them.
Interview each prospect and gather information. Estate planning is a very important and often very personal process, so make sure you choose a lawyer who you can see yourself working with. Look for things like kindness, empathy, and a real sense of urgency for your case in addition to other important things like number of years in practice, fees, and how communication will work after you sign on.
DiPietro Law LLC can help you craft the estate plan that’s right for you. To get started, call our Millsboro office today at (302) 240-9969.